It’s World Bee Day and as beekeepers we wanted to join in the celebration, however, we find that many people we speak to are asking if beekeeping is ethically good or bad so we thought we’d have our say.
Firstly, it is important to say that currently, in England and Wales, it is considered that there are no sustainable wild or feral honeybee colonies left. While the odd colony will set up residence in an odd old tree, there are several diseases that make their survival unlikely. The diseases causing harm have mainly been introduced by previous generations of beekeepers and now, without our intervention, they would potentially spell the end of the UK species. For us, to turn away from this would be the bigger crime, like finding rubbish dumped on your drive by someone else but you just do nothing and that is why we keep bees. Alongside the threat of disease, is the threat of climate change. Our warmer climate has caused honeybee predators, such as the Asian Hornet, to reach our shores and attack our native bees. With all that in mind, we keep bees, not for the honey, but to play our part in their survival.
The next point is that we consider ourselves hobbyists when it comes to keeping bees. We are obsessed by them and do all we can to ensure they not only survive, but that they thrive. The bee products we make are only made out of the surplus honey and wax. Commercial beekeepers, the ones that stock the supermarkets, feed their bees sugar syrup all year round, renew Queen bees too regularly, take as much honey as they can and medicate bees whether they need it or not. All of this is abhorrent to the hobbyist who makes sure that they leave plenty of honey for the bees, who only medicate as required and who swarm control with the queen still in authority of the new hive. The hobbyist find themselves getting excited as they hear news that the honey bee is becoming resistant to the effects of Varroa destructor and looks forward to the day when there is once again a healthy population of wild bees that they helped see through this terrible time.
We do not hide the fact that we enjoy the odd jar of honey and that we do use some of the old or surplus supply of wax and honey but in the last 5 years we have never lost a hive to disease or starvation and each year we have had strong growing colonies and have had to donate to other beekeepers as they breed and expand as they should do. It is also worth saying that in the last 5 we have always left more than enough honey on the hive to see the bees through winter. So while we recognise that beekeeping in not the quaint hobby it used to be, we believe that we are helping to ensure the honeybees survival and will be over the moon when the wild populations are once again sustainable without our help.
We do not hide the fact that we enjoy the odd jar of honey and that we do use some of the old or surplus supply of wax and honey but in the last 5 years we have never lost a hive to disease or starvation and each year we have had strong growing colonies and have had to donate our healthy strong colonies to other beekeepers as breed and expand as they should do. It is also worth saying that in the last 5 years we have taken a few jars of honey and have always left more than enough on the hive to see the bees through winter and have never needed to bulk feed our bees sugar syrups. So while we recognise that beekeeping in not the quaint hobby it used to bee, we believe that we are helping to ensure their survival and be over the moon when the wild populations are once again sustainable without our help.
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